When I first started surfing waves in the mid 80’s, it was on a bodyboard with swimfins. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was living at Rocky Point, on Oahu’s infamous North Shore, working and putting myself through college and I had never surfed waves before, having grown up in Oregon and being a poor swimmer at the time. One winter, I was deeply inspired by a wave of beautiful and athletic Brazilian women who showed up off the plane on the North Shore, fearlessly charging Pipeline’s barrels and dropping in on steep waves at Rocky Point and easefully pulling in. I had photographed and witnessed a handful of Oahu’s best women surfers (on traditional surfboards) but had never seen women bodyboarding before, especially at this level. It got me stoked and created a desire to try and learn how to ride waves on one. But first I would have to overcome my fear of being in deep water and improve on my swimming skills.
My now husband Tom, who was my boyfriend at the time, was an avid North Shore waterman, who was as comfortable pulling into big barrels and charging waves up and down the North Shore as he was bodysurfing and diving for fish. He helped me to overcome my fears of the ocean, by introducing me to snorkeling one summer there at Rocky Point and Pipe, when the ocean dies down along the North Shore and locals call it “flat”. Summer is a perfect time to behold the beauty below the waves with sea turtles, numerous colorful fishes and corals in sight, and then strengthen my swimming skills on a flat, deep Waimea Bay. We used to say “gonna go swim the bay” on those summer mornings.
The next natural step for me was to try bodyboarding. So one sunny winter day, a pumping 6’ swell at Pipeline swept up a perfect sandbar set up between Pupukea and Rockies, covering the coral reef with deep sand. Tom’s friend, my girlfriend Cindy Crowder, Tom and I were sitting watching the afternoon swell when we saw these fun whitewater wave surges rushing up the beach to the Rocky Point access, then sweeping back down to the bottom of the beach and back over the covered sandy reef to the outside. The boys grabbed us some boards and we headed out on the sandy reef to ride some of them.
The surge would suck the wave back out leaving waist deep water for us to run back over, then another set would jack up on the outside reef, it would move in fast and steep with a wall of 6’ +water which would quickly hit us from behind, lifting us up to the surface of the whitewater and carrying us for a thrilling ride to the top of the beach, then drawing us back down to the bottom of the beach, where we then ran back out for more. It was like a perfect bathtub backwash! This rare sandbar started me on my path of bodyboarding, giving me numerous adrenaline rushing waves to experience. The sandbar lasted for only a couple weeks, but over that time I had caught the bug and knew I wanted to “really” start bodyboarding in waves someday.
That fall, I moved back to Oregon, after living on Oahu for six years to finish up my college degree in Portland. Buried in my books, study, interning and evening work, it’d be a couple years until I came back to bodyboarding again. But when I did, I did it with a vengeance. Tom bought me a new wetsuit, board and fins, and I began to really learn to surf after I graduated and we’d spend nearly every weekend, for two years, heading to the beach for Tom to surf and for me to bodyboard.
We eventually moved to Seaside in 1989, and for the next five years, I pursued my love of bodyboarding and traveling to exotic destinations like the Indonesian Island chain with Tom in search of hollow, long and fast waves. This is a period of my life before I learned to surf on a surfboard that will always be one of the most amazing chapters of my life…will never forget the people, the culture, and the waves we all shared.
And as the old commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story” is I took up surfing on a surfboard that next winter after a painful snowboard knee injury. Not wanting to be out of the water and waves for any length of time, Tom said to take one of his surfboards out and surf on it until my knee healed and I could kick back out again on my bodyboard. So I did, catching waves on his 7’10” Gibbons for the next six months. Surfing came pretty easy for me at that point, having spent years bodyboarding and reading waves, developing my strength and confidence in larger swell and riding 100’s of waves over the years. I hung up my bodyboard, once my knee healed, and decided that with surfing so much more difficult to excel in, I’d stop defaulting to my bodyboard and would focus on my surfing.
Until 20+ years later, in July of 2017, when my past surfing student Macy Ray asked me to give her a bodyboard lesson. I still had my gear, mentioned to her I hadn’t been out on it for years, but would be happy to get her out riding on some waves with skills on her new bodyboard. We had a delightful day together at Oswald West State Park, Short Sands middle peak and my past love and passion felt renewed.
This summer, we’re offering three Sunday Coed Bodyboarding Clinics, for teens and adults, starting in July and running into mid September. My dear friend and fellow bodyboarder from the 80’s, Joanne Cremer and I, will be coaching these sessions. It will be a joy to be riding waves again with her and the next generation of bodyboarders here on the North Coast!
Check out all details here on our website- https://nwwomenssurfcamps.com/camps/kids-surf-bodyboarding-lessons/ These three hour sessions will teach you all about the surfing forecast and how to dissect it, you’ll learn about ocean safety and currents, and the essential surfing skills to ride a bodyboard including kicking out with your swimfins and reading the peaks. See you in the waves!